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If Christmas is a Birthday then It’s about a Birthday Boy.


When little Joshua opened his eyes it was still dark, yet he wasn’t tired. There was an excitement in him, an anticipation tingled in his skin. He could hardly stay still. He couldn’t wait for this day to begin. Yet he lay there in bed dreaming. You see, Joshua loved this day because of the special time he got to spend with those people who loved Him so much. He couldn’t help thinking about how they would show him love through the gifts, and the party, and, oh, the singing… More than anything, little Josh couldn’t wait for his Mom and Dad to come into his room to wake him up with a big hug and say, “Happy Birthday, Joshua! We love you so much!”

Now imagine if little Joshua wasn’t noticed on his birthday. Imagine if he was laying in bed, waiting for that birthday hug from Mom and Dad, but it never came. What if he went the whole day without hearing, “Happy birthday, We love you so much! We’re so happy you’re in our lives.” How do you think he’d feel?

Worse yet, imagine if Everyone threw Josh a huge amazing party. What if everyone in town showed up, they even sang some songs about him and hung his baby pictures up in their own homes, but the rest of the year, no one really talked to him? They never said, I love you even once.
They really didn’t notice him or pay any attention to him.

Imagine another scenario. What if Joshua was laying in bed waiting for his birthday greeting and hug from his family and he heard his parents voices from outside, and Joshua got up, went and opened his window to hear his parents and siblings praising the neighbor boy, Nick, telling him how great and special he was and how they were so thankful for him? What if, on Joshua’s birthday, he came down the stairs and saw the house decorated for a party, but It was his neighbor, Nick’s, name written on the banners and it was his pictures hung all over the house?

All these scenarios are true. There’s a poor little boy named Joshua or Jesus, who is forgotten about every year on his birthday. Sometimes his loved ones make a big deal of him for his birthday and forget him the rest of the year. Other members of his family show up to his party and say it’s only magical, special, and meaningful if Nicholas (Santa Claus) is there and so they talk about Nick , and tell stories and sing about him rather than the birthday boy.

The amazing thing is, because Christmas is about Jesus it’s about us as well. Imagine if little Josh, on his birthday, got up and was full of excitement, not because of what people would give him, but because of what he would give them. What if he gave all his presents away? Imagine if he spent his the entire day serving, and giving and loving others. Imagine if Joshua made his birthday all about everyone else.
On Christ’s birthday, he did just that.

On Christmas Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t receive gifts. Rather, he gave them. He gave us the greatest gift, Himself. He’s given us Love, joy, peace, and hope. Let’s make Christmas about him. In fact, because he’s so great and because all he’s done, lets make life about him as well.

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Pictures found here, here, and here

God With Us

GOD WITH US

Poem by Isaac Wimberley

The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham

They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem

Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem

Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them

So for them—it was anticipation

This groaning was growing, generation after generation

Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation

But they longed for Him

They yearned for Him

They waited for Him on the edge of their seat

On the edge of where excitement and containment meet

They waited

Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited

Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

So it was

Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought

Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought

While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s façade

Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God

So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us

In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus

Through Him and for Him, all things were created

And in Him all things are sustained

God had made Himself known for the glory of His name

And this child would one day rise as King

But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime

It would be by His life

A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew

He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true

Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too

Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new

A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs

Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost

And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust

And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross

So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay

He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place

Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight

So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave

And He died

And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died

No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life

God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death

That’s what Christ did on that cross

Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave

And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised

Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins

The things that He promised were true

He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you

Turning our mourning into dancing

Our weeping into laughing

Our sadness into joy

By His mercy, we are called His own

By His grace, we will never be left alone

By His love, He is preparing our home

By His blood, we can sing before His throne

Jesus paid it all

All to Him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow

So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting

Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating

He has shown us that this world is fading

And He has caused our desire to be for Him

So church, stay ready

Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady

Worship Him freely, never forgetting

His great love for you

Immanuel, God with us

The Gospel is so beautiful!  What do you think of this Gospel presentation? How does it speak to your soul?

For More on Folk Angel go here

7 Ways To Be Missional This Christmas

Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year.  While there are a lot of distractions from its true meaning, Christmas is still a great time to share the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ.  Below are seven ways you can reach out to others and show God’s love this Christmas.

1. Give gifts to people who really need help. 

  • There are scores of organizations that help you give a Christmas Gift in the name of Christ.  We do a giving tree at our church and collect toys and presents that have been request from poor parent’s for their children. Toys for Tots is another great tradition.  Let you kids help and see that Christmas isn’t about them and their presents but giving gifts because of the gift we’ve receive of Jesus and the eternal life He brings.
  • Give a Life-Giving Gift because of the Life-Giving Gift we’ve received in Jesus.  World Vision  and Living Water are great places you can give life-giving gifts of water, food, or animals to improve the lives of children across the world.  You can give a gift on behalf of another in addition or in replacement of a gift you would normally give.
  • Is there someone in your neighborhood or at work that is in need of something this Christmas?  Don’t just spend money to spend money, but if you know a need, try to fill it.

2. Give Small gifts to your Neighbors 

  • My wife loves to bake.  Every year, she makes a number of goody sacks to hand out to our neighbors.  Then we go door-to-door and hand them out to people.  It’s a great reason to knock on a neighbor’s door and spend a couple of minutes getting to know them a little better.  We just had a neighborhood bonfire last month.  When we invited one neighbor, she immediately asked if we were the people who came over and gave them cookies two years before.  She still remembered and it seemed to make it easier for her to join us because of the groundwork that was laid two years before.

3. Invite someone to your Christmas Celebration 

  • At certain times in our lives, we know people who don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas.  Some just don’t have family.  Some Just live too far away for their families to get together.  Is there someone like this in your life, Maybe a college student or an elderly neighbor?  If so, make sure you invite them to join your family for Christmas.  You don’t have to invite everyone, but if you see someone who will be alone, invite them into your family for that evening.
  • We have a Christmas Celebration every year.  Our Church has a few Church services every Christmas Eve.  We have people over  between 5 and 7 that night.   We invite anyone we know to come over for some chilli, soup, and a lot of Christmas snacks and beverages.  We invite friends who volunteer and have to be at each church service that night so that they have somewhere to go to kill some time.  But we also invite some neighbors to stop by if they like.   Surprisingly, a number of them do.  We then reserve Christmas Morning just for family.

4. Bless those who can’t celebrate Christmas

  • Think about the Firefighters, Police officers, Gas Station Attendant who have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  Bring them a gift basket of donuts or Christmas goodies to bless them when they are probably feeling low from being away from their families.  Maybe even leave them a Christmas card and a written message about Jesus’ birth.   For more check out this article.

5. Rehearse the Christmas Story

  • Peter says we must always be ready to give an answer for our faith anytime someone asks (1 pe 3:15).  At Christmas time, especially if you’re showing love in unexpected ways, people are going to ask you why.  We have to be ready.  In our Church plant we are always rehearsing the Gospel Story through the major themes of Creation -> Fall -> Redemption -> Restoration.  It’s real easy to be ready to tell a shortened version of this story with an emphasis on the expectation of the messiah and the birth of Jesus.  Don’t just tell people “This is the day Jesus was born.”  Explain to them the whole story and why Jesus’ birth is important.  If not, people won’t understand the message.

6. Invite people to your Christmas Church Services

  • As Christians, we should be in the habit of inviting people into our lives before we invite them to church.  Yet if there is any day when unchurched or dechurch people are willing to go to church it might be Christmas.  During the Christmas season, many are hurting and longing for something more.  They’re searching to reclaim some magic in the world.  If you know someone who isn’t going to be going to church, invite them to join you.  Pick them up, sit together, and talk about the message, the music, and anything else that can further the conversation.

7. Gather your MC and sing Christmas Carols

  • I was hesitant to put this one down.  I’m not sure if caroling is really helpful in the Christian witness.  It seems a bit intrusive like cold-call evangelism.  Yet, I do believe this could be done right.  I think elderly people would be more accepting of this gift of music.  It’s something they experienced or participated in as a youth and is likely to bring warm feelings of nostalgia.  The other group I think would benefit this is if you went caroling at people’s homes that you’ve been sharing life with through your Missional Community.  If enough ground work has already been laid, Caroling could be a great way to sing the Gospel message and show love, yet not seem too strange.

Related:

6 Ways to be Missional with the Super Bowl

4 Ways to be Missional this Easter

9 Ways to be Missional this Thanksgiving

13 Ways to be Missional this Halloween

 

Ever Think Santa Could Reveal Our Thoughts on God?

Check out this great video called Anti-Santy Ranty.  It’s pretty eye opening, but not in the way you expect it.

 

Discovered the video via Sunshine Lenses

Please Don’t Teach Your Kids About Santa

St. Nicholas from an ancient mosaic in Turkey

With Thanksgiving out of the way we threw out the goards and pumpkins, packed up the fall decorations, cut down a tree, and started decorating the house in green, red, and gold.  The reason is obvious, Christmas is coming.  I was at walmart the other day and saw an 8-10 foot blow up raindeer, which I actually kinda like.  Yet most of what I saw was Santa Claus themed.  More and more we see an addition to the Santa Myth with the Elf on the Shelf stuff as well.

Last year I shared, Why I Won’t Be Teaching My Children About Santa Claus.  I see way to many Christian kids more focused on Santa and “his” gifts than on Jesus and His Gift.  I’ve got nothing against watching Christmas movies that involve Santa.  I liked, Tim Allen’s, The Santa Clause movies.  I loved, Will Ferrell’s Elf.  I enjoy the Grinch and Frosty Movies.  Yet as I watch some of these with my Daughter, Areli, I’ll let her know that they’re pretend.  Even now, at a year and a half, I’m teaching her that we’re decorating everything because we’re celebrating Jesus’ Birthday.  You won’t find a Santa in our house, because we’re celebrating Jesus and no other.

I will be teaching my daughter, however, about the real St. Nicholas.  We’ll be reading to her, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend, and as she get’s older we’ll watch St. Nichola of Myra as well, so my daughter will know who the real Santa Claus really is.  I want her to know that St. Nick  was really a great defender of the Christian Faith and showed love to children because of the love he had seen in Jesus.

Parent’s if you share Santa with you kids, which is hard to avoid, make sure you don’t describe him as a God like person who is all-powerful and all-knowing.  Don’t credit him with the gifts you worked hard to provide.  Don’t decorate you houses in Santa’s image.  Rather, share with you children how Christmas is all about Jesus.  Put a nativity as the focal point to your Christmas decoration.  Teach your children who St. Nicholas really was, so that there is no confusion.  And then enjoy all the fun holiday stuff with you kids knowing what is true and what is make-beleive.

Resources

Information on the real Saint Nicholas.

Video The Real St. Nick from Lutheran Hour Ministries

St. Nicholas Films

Picture found here

See also: Why I Won’t Be Teaching My Children About Santa Claus

Sharing the Christmas Story

We all have family or friends that we feel like we can’t talk to about Jesus.  Even sitting around a  Christmas tree, right next to a Nativity Scene, we have a hard time finding the words to talk about the gift we have in Christ.  Yet at the same time, we might send numerous emails or text throughout the week to these same individuals.  Maybe you could reach them in the same way you are already communicating with them.

Note:  I’m not telling you to bombard them with cheesy, precious moments, glittery image, Christian quote or story with a curse added to the end if they don’t love Jesus enough to forward it on to ten other people.

Anyway,  try sharing showing this awesome video.  In my family, when one person plays a cute video, there’s usually 3-5 more before we get off  youtube.  Throw it in the mix.  Reinforce the story.  Share it on Facebook or Twitter.   

Whether you use the video or not, find a way to point people towards Jesus, and the real meaning of Christmas, this week.

Some More Great Free Christmas Music Downloads

There are some great organizations and artists giving away free Christmas music this December.  If you’re having people over for Christmas or be ready for next year’s Christmas parties, visit these sites in the next couple of days for all the songs you’ll need. 

  1. Here are 3 free albums, 18 songs, from Folk Angel.  Free through the 22nd.  Enter the password, COMPASSION, in all caps.Amazon.com is unveiling a new free Christmas song every day leading up to Christmas.  You can get all of their free songs through Christmas Day here.
  2. Here’s another low key free album Christmas Dei from Missio Dei
  3. Here are 25 more free Christmas songs that are mostly folk or indie
  4. Here’s a new song by Josh Wilson, Jesus is Alive
  5. Here’s an entire Christmas album from Culby X
  6. Here are a few good songs from the Northpoint Church 
  7. Amazon.com is unveiling a new free Christmas song every day leading up to Christmas.  You can get all of their free songs through Christmas Day here.

If this isn’t enough great free Christmas Music, Find more Great Free Christmas Music here.

Why I Won’t Be Teaching My Children About Santa Claus

Last week in the Core Group meeting for our church plant, we had a great conversation about Santa Claus.  Obviously Santa is one of the most beloved and well-known characters in the West.  Yet, should Christians teach their children about Santa?  For my wife and I, we will not be teaching our daughter to believe in Santa for a few reasons:

  1. Christmas is about Jesus.  It’s His birthday, not Santa Claus’.  In fact, the word, “Santa Claus” actually comes from the Dutch word meaning St. Nicolas.  He was a 3rd century Bishop of the Christian church in Myra Turkey.  He was at the Council of Nicaea.  He spent his life defending the faith and sharing his wealth with people in need.  He was famous for following Jesus.  Everything he did, all the gifts that he gave, was in response to the greatest gift he’d been given, eternal life through Jesus Christ.  We should follow his example and make Jesus center of our Christmas season.
  2.  Santa not only distracts from the greatest gift we have, eternal life in Jesus Christ, but it also  distracts from the love of parents.  I know many people who give 3 gifts from “Santa” and one or two from mom and dad.  So the child grows up thinking that Santa loves them more than mom and dad.  He gives bigger, better, or more gifts.  Children don’t see how much they are blessed with the love of their parents, but rather their affection grows for someone else…who isnt’ even real.
  3. Teaching about Santa can damage the faith of our Children.  Think about it.  Many parents tell elaborate stories to their children about Santa.  They have their kids leave out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.  Then in the morning, presents have appeared under the tree from “Santa.”  The cookies and milk are gone.  Some even go the extent of dressing up like Santa and visiting with the kids as the presents are delivered.  Parents take their kids to the mall and they can meet Santa, tell him what they want, and it ends up being there on Christmas.  What happens when the child finds out Santa isn’t real?  How can we expect them to believe what we teach them about Jesus, who’ve they have never seen or talked to, when the Santa the had seen in the mall was a ruse? 

Now I’m not saying get rid of anything that has to do with Santa.  Nor am I telling you that you should teach your kids to crush the hope and dreams of their friends by proclaiming that Santa isn’t real. 

Rather I am encouraging you to tell your children the truth.  Don’t lie to them about something that distracts from the true meaning of Christmas. 

I still enjoy Tim Allen’s “The Santa Claus” films and frosty and Rudolf films.  I’ll tell my daughter that they are fun made up stories, but I’ll teach her about the real St. Nick and how he always pointed to Jesus.  I’ll teach her that Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  It’s all about Jesus.  He is the greatest gift the world has ever received.  So to celebrate that gift, we focus on Him and we give gifts to others, because we were given life through Jesus Christ. 

Resources

If you are interested in learning more about the real St. Nicolas or about how the modern Santa Clause legends came about, visit the St. Nicolas Center’s website

Concordia Publishing House sells a great book, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend.  It’s a great resources for teaching children about the real St. Nicholas. 

There’s a new film coming out called Nicholas of Myra: The Story of St. Nicholas which looks to be a good quality film being made on the real St. Nick. 

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Great Free Christian Music

There are some great Churches and musicians giving aways some awesome music this Christmas season.  Here are a few good albums and songs that I’ve run into:

Here’s a few songs from Austin Stone church with a great remake of On Christ the Solid Rock I Standhttp://austinstoneworship.com/

 

 

A FREE awesome contemporary Christmas Carol full album from Lifechurch.TV http://www.lifechurch.tv/carols

 

 

A FREE copy of Laura Cooke’s album, Christmas in a Day

 

Here is some great FREE music :Emmanuel byLaura Story, O Come All Ye Faithful byPhillips Craig & Dean, & Christmas Time by Phil Wickham.    This offer is from K-Love radio station.  The itunes Code didn’t pop up right away for me, so here it is in case you run into the same problem: LLJWEJYPPTWA

 

Holly StarrHere are free version of What Child is This by Holly Starr 

 

 

Christmas! Volume 1 Cover Art Here’s 5 great songs from Soma Austin’s Daniel Darnell in a FREE Christmas EP

 

 

Go, Tell It On the Mountain ft. Mark Apel Cover ArtHere’s a FREE version of Go, Tell it on the mountain by Seryn ft. Mark Apel

 

 

Emmanuel Cover ArtHere’s a Free Copy of Soma Community’s Jenny Snipstead’s original song Emmanuel

A FREE copy of the Civil War’s O Come Emmanuel

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